After days of speculation, the New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk’s acquiring team at the deadline last season, will reportedly lock up the superstar to a seven year deal worth $60 million. This will result in a roughly $8.5 million cap hit, and will bring the Devils nearly $5 million over the salary cap.
Teams have until their first game to get back under the cap, which I have no doubt the Devils will do, but how they will be able to do this is intriguing. One can hardly sit back and prepare to make fun of the Devils, because year after year Lou Lamoriello shows his genius in some way, but this summer, he went berserk with money.
For a GM that has never brought in big money free agents, he threw $4.250 million at Volchenkov, and $3.375 million at Henrik Tallinder, both of whom are defensive defenseman, with a career high between them of 21 points. The Devils got better defensively, but with Paul Martin running to Pittsburgh, they no longer have a solid offensive defenseman. This is a blunder by Lamoriello, which will somehow correct itself next season, because their problems always do.
However, what Lamoriello will have to do to correct his cap situation now will require the genius which he is noted for.
Including Kovalchuk, the Devils have 11 signed forwards, meaning they need two more, because no team ever carries the bare minimum 12 forwards. But in order for the Devils to get under the cap, they need to get rid of at least two forwards.
Basically, the Devils have to subtract, and then add, all for the sake of bringing back a player which made the team play worse with him than without him.
The Devils will most likely waive Bryce Salvador at the end of training camp, accounting for $2.9 million. They will then need to find a way to trade Dainus Zubrus and Jamie Langenbunner, according to a Tweet by Larry Brooks. This would free up an additional $6.2 million.
So now after these three moves, the Devils will need four forwards and will be down to the bare minimum of six defensemen. We all know the phrase addition by subtraction, but what Lamoriello has done is subtraction by addition.
Kovalchuk is not like any player the Devils have had before. He is not a team player, nor is he defensive minded. He is in all essence of the term, a puck hog, which can play to his advantage, unless other players get under his skin.
But here is a bigger question, a monumental one of the future of the Devils. With all these players locked up, what happens when Zach Parise comes up for restricted free agency next season and demands the same as, if not more money than Ilya Kovalchuk?
Don’t count Lamoriello out for making more extraordinary moves, but the final question remains, was this the stroke of genius, or a slip-up by an aging general manager?
EDIT: The NY Post has changed the headline of their story as I have with mine. In ten minutes (and probably about a million hits) the headline went from “Devils to Sign Kovalchuk” to “Devils Have the Inside Track”. Who knows what the real deal is. We will find out later.